Paris — French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Friday evening that France is immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in a backlash over a canceled submarine deal.
Le Drian said in a statement that the decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, "is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements" made by Australia and the U.S.
He said the cancellation by Australia of a big contract to buy French conventional submarines in favor of nuclear-powered subs built with U.S. technology is "unacceptable behavior."
"At the request of President Macron, I have decided to immediately recall our ambassadors to the United States and Australia to Paris for consultations," Le Drian said. "This extraordinary decision reflects the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States. The abandonment of the ocean-class submarine project that Australia and France had been working on since 2016 and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States aimed at studying the possibility of future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines constitute unacceptable behavior among allies and partners; their consequences affect the very concept we have of our alliances, our partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe."
Paris learned just ahead of the announcement that Australia was scrapping a big purchase of French conventional submarines in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology. France to lost a nearly $100 billion deal to build diesel-electric submarines.
France has pushed for several years for a European strategy to boost economic, political and defense ties in the region stretching from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU unveiled this week its plan for the Indo-Pacific.
A White House official said the Biden administration has been "in close touch with our French partners" on their decision.
"While we regret that they have taken this step, we will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance. France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history, democratic values, and a commitment to working together to address global challenges. As President Biden and President Macron affirmed during their meeting in Cornwall last June, our countries will continue to cooperate closely on the full range of issues, from pandemic recovery and the climate crisis to global economic prosperity and security," the White House official said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki fielded a number of questions on France's reaction to the deal between the U.S., UK and Australia Thursday, after France canceled a gala in Washington over the deal.
"Well, I would first say that we value our relationship and our partnership with France on a variety of issues facing the global community, whether it's economic growth, or whether it's the fight against COVID, or addressing security throughout the world," Psaki said Thursday. "And that has been a longstanding partnership for many, many years. I would leave it, of course, to our Australian partners to describe why they sought this new technology and why they pursued this technology from the United States."
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